Of course Irish is a threat to no-one. It's an act that is the threat

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Latterly, as the prospects of a Stormont deal have again begun to rise, Sinn Fein seems to be focusing on one of its red lines '“ an Irish language act.

This is because republicans know that such an act is a key achievement in their long term project.

They know that it will change the feel of Northern Ireland.

They know that, for example, a seemingly innocent legally protected right to learn Irish (which of course everyone already has) will turn, in the longer term, into a situation in which schools have to provide it or access to it.

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They also know that if they drop their quota demand for public sector jobs, this will seem to be a concession by them, when in fact it was their own agitating that put such an alarming and thoroughly unacceptable notion on the table.

They will also know that if they can get to a situation in which there are vast, expensive, unnecessary translations then the number of Irish students will have to rise, as the number of jobs needed soars.

This will both divide Northern Ireland, and be a disgraceful waste of money when health and other forms of education are in need of much more urgent funds.

It is encouraging that a range of voices within unionism, from the leading figures in the Ulster Unionist Party all the way across to the TUV, have come to see through any notion that Ulster-Scots legislation, for which there is no demand, will balance Irish language legislation (see links below).

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It won’t and for that reason it is something that republicans will be happy to concede.

It is an insufficient response to Sinn Fein’s destabilising conduct to say that Irish is not a threat to the Union, unless the argument is being deployed as an argument against standalone legislation.

Of course the language of itself is a threat to no-one, let alone the Union. It is the way republicans intend to use it, backed by legislation, that is the threat, which is why Sinn Fein have made it non negotiable.

• Recent stories on Irish language:

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